My Thoughts. . .
Thursday, August 8, 2019
I once worked for a church eons ago that had a lot of potential for growth. Predictions were that in ten years the area’s population would easily triple in size. We were about 300 on Sunday mornings. We looked forward to that growth spurt and envisioned a 600 to 1,000-member congregation. It never happened. Internal problems were evident, but nothing was really done to solve them. Members started leaving. The “why” was never revealed, at least right away. When the truth of those departures were discovered and a remedy proposed, it failed and the results was swept under the rug. Two years later the rug could no longer hide the ugliness that members had hoped would evaporate. The area grew as predicted, but the congregation’s numbers went the wrong direction. That reputation stuck with that assembly for years that it was burden with problems. Despite those problems and the history created, they appeared as a bride, not having spot or wrinkle when compared to the church of God in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2).
Paul heard about the doctrinal and personal sins in the church from the house of Chloe (1:11). Some might charge that family with gossip, but Paul was shocked. His dismay was not over the origin of the received information, but by the deplorable state the congregation had sunk to. His letter was longer than most that he wrote. If a congregation must be perfect in doctrine and practice, Corinth was woefully lacking. Paul may have referred to them as “the church of God,” but their doctrine and practice were far removed from God’s pattern. If that congregation existed today it would not be connected to Jesus but would be an apostate church unworthy of support or membership. If they had possessed a street sign, churches around them would have avoided them.
Some did not believe Paul was a genuine apostle (9:1-2). The church had denominated into four groups with each divisions touting their favorite preacher (1:10-13). Unity was not evident among them. Division or denominating was the course set by all. They could not sit down and partake of communion with one another (11:18-22). Some were going home hungry while others staggered out drunk. Those who considered themselves strong in the faith ridiculed those whom they considered weak. Some believed there was an actual god represented by each of the idols they formerly worshiped. At least Yahweh was supreme in their thinking. Some were suing others in the Roman court and making Christianity a sham. They were arrogant rather than in tears that a brother was living with his father’s wife which brought shame upon the church (5:1-8). Their assemblies were far from being edifying. The services could not be expressed as decent or orderly (14:40). Some did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. If there was a pattern, they had discarded it. Today, most would look at such a congregation and label it as liberal and not a “true” church. Corinth possessed a “pattern,” but it wasn’t from God. Paul addressed them as “the church of God,” but they seemed more like an apostate than apostolic. I doubt if any preacher worth his salt would want to work with such a congregation. Who would wish to place membership with them? Why fellowship error?
Yes, Paul wrote to correct them. Despite their doctrinal error, the corruption of their worship, their alienation from one another, and the shame they had brought upon themselves due to their arrogance, Paul 1) did not tell them that other churches of God had withdrawn fellowship from them. 2) He did not refer to them as an apostate congregation. 3) He never told them that they were going to hell. 4) He never informed them that they were no longer the true church. However, just the opposite, he told all four denominational groups to withdraw from one man and one man only (5:1-11).
While all the things mentioned in chapters one through fifteen were addressed by Paul as wrong and no repentance had yet taken place, Paul referred to them as:
- The church of God (1:2).
- The body of Christ (12:27).
- The Temple of the Holy Spirit (3:16-17).
- They were bought with a price (6:19-20).
- They had the gifts of the Holy Spirit (12:28; 14:1-40).
- They had prophets, language speakers, interpreters, and others with the Holy Spirit still residing in them.
- He continues these accolades in the second letter despite their failure to completely solve their problems.
- And he addressed them as “brethren.”
God’s Temple is holy. Corinth has not been withdrawn from. They were deeply encased in error. How could Corinth have God dwelling in them as His holy Temple when they were burdened with sin and had not yet repented? In fact, they didn’t receive Paul’s letter and clean up their act immediately. In spite of error continuing to exist when the second letter arrived, Paul addressed them as “the church of God,” “saints” and “brethren” (2 Corinthians 1:1,8). Look at the divisions among us. Would we say the same about those we disagree with? Corinth becomes our thorn in the flesh when we attempt to find their proper fitting place. Even when they fell in line with Paul’s instruction in both letters, we know they never reached perfection. Truly an enigma.